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Old 01-17-2018, 03:17 AM   #1
The Morg
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Lapras Arashi 「untitled」



So this is a bit of an unusual one for me. I know ABL is always trying to get people to watch these Arashi concert videos until rainbows come out their ears, but what can I say? ABL's passion is infectious!

Be careful or ABL will try to get you to go to a concert too. She would randomly drop lines in Skype chats like "I was just thinking about how I felt at that concert when I realized Aiba-shi was like, 10 feet away from me???" And I thought, she's just trying to corrupt me! That was totally directed at me because she knows I like Aiba. That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for her, I'm sure. I do enjoy hearing these stories, realistically knowing that there's no way that could ever happen to me. Getting seats that close is staggeringly unlikely, plus you don't know if your favourite members will come near your section, and you have an even smaller chance of them even noticing you. Besides, the concerts are in such high demand that you have to enter a lottery to be allowed to buy tickets, and the lottery is only open to official verified fan club members. It's one of the biggest performances in Japan by far. So for gaijin like me, such a thing could only be a fantasy.

Or so I thought. As soon as the 「untitled」 tour opened up, FC Member ABL entered the ticket lottery... and listed me in her party. And by some mysterious power, not only was her entry selected, she got her first pick of date/venue: day 1 of the tour in Sapporo Dome. My mind was blown: ABL scored me an Arashi concert ticket. Is this real life? With almost no preparation, I hopped on a plane and joined the party in Sapporo.



And it was a party for sure. The day before the actual concert is when merchandise sales open up. This is when everyone goes to the venue to pick up goods like tote bags and posters and concert lights. And then thousands of Arashi fans crowd the nearest shopping area, decked out with their Arashi fandom materials and built-up, tangible excitement. We called this the Arashi Matsuri. Shopkeepers knew it was coming, too, so they brought out every item that had commercials by Arashi members and set up all the posters and displays. There was everything from energy gel drinks to muscle pain patches, and it all had Arashi promotional material attached. Of course people were buying the stuff like crazy, and sometimes people would take pictures with the life size displays. Myself included. It was the perfect way to soak in as much Arashi fandom as my body could take.




The next day was the concert itself. We joined the pilgrimage to the Sapporo Dome along with 50000 other fans in one giant stream. Everyone had their 「un」 bags and concert gear which ranged from hair bows to entire outfits in their favourite member's colour. Our mission was to get to the end of the Touhou subway line which was the closest stop to Sapporo Dome. The three main stops are in the middle of the line: Sapporo (the main transportation hub with all the other rail lines), Odori (basically Main Street), and Susukino. The majority of the shopping and dining in Sapporo is clustered around these three consecutive stations, both above and below ground, so they're where the majority of people were getting on. We were getting on at Sapporo, and even then, the trains were already pretty full. And I'm used to competitive cities like NYC where people crowd around the subway doors and shove their way on, so I was bracing for the worst Japan had to offer. I wasn't quite expecting what actually happens: people line up in front of the car entrances, single file, and board one at a time until the train is full. And then the train leaves, and you keep your spot in line, and get on the next train in the order you came. Such an efficient and organized system. We got on the second train, and it made its stops at Odori and Susukino, and of course it was full so nobody could get on at those stations. There was a back-and-forth exchange of "Onegai!" "Muri!" a few times at the doors before they closed, and we were on our way. A Muyo's eye view of the carnage:



I should mention how fortunate we were to have Muyo around. You see, Muyo has a super power, a well-known super power called Gaijin Smash. He's more than willing to play the part of the well-meaning but clueless foreigner to get through any situation. We need to get over there, but lines of people are in the way? "We're sumimasenning," says Muyo, and before you can marvel at how this combination of Japanese and English has been created, he's parted the crowd like the Red Sea and you are marching straight through. Gaijin Smash.

We reached the end of the Touhou subway and started the march up to the Sapporo Dome. That ascent is where the reality of the situation really hit me. I was really about to see an Arashi concert. Somehow the events of my life led up to this happening. I would really have never guessed this would happen. And somehow there I was. The anticipation gnawed at me until we were finally inside and it was time to claim our tickets. ABL had a huge grin and I could tell that she too was brimming with excitement.



We didn't actually have tickets up until this point. This was part of a new system that had been implemented to deter scalpers. They sent the lucky winners QR codes that they would scan onsite to claim their tickets, and the seats would be randomly assigned at that time. This is because scalpers had been buying up all the arena seats and reselling to desperate fans. The "arena" is the small section of ground-level seats in front of the stage. They let you get up close to the performers, so of course they are highly coveted and scalpers would resell them for astronomical prices.

I could tell that ABL's excitement was building, and I thought, this must be peak ABL! How foolish I was. It wasn't even her final form. We picked up our tickets and started going towards the entrance. I took a look at the tickets we just received, and- UH OH



I was kind of dazed and managed to mumble, "hey, you got arena seats."

Shock, that's all I can describe. Somehow we kept moving. At some point, Muyo declared matter-of-factly, "ABL might die." I believed it. This had been enough good luck for a lifetime and then some.

At the entrance, we showed our tickets and the gatekeeper asked us if we had any cameras. You're supposed to say "no" and then you can go through. This is really just a procedural thing, since you brought a phone to scan your QR code. They have to ask, though, because they absolutely do NOT want anyone taking pictures in the concert. So of course the first thing Muyo did was go up to the seating map and take a picture - including the "no cameras" sign - right in front of staff.

Gaijin Smash.



The main stage had runways that went up to a front stage, and there was a moving platform that went down the middle of the arena. So since we were in the middle, we had the best views pretty much all the time.

As the stadium filled up, I liked being able to look around as people turned on their fanlights. The fanlights let you cycle through the five colours to show your favourite member. There seemed to be a pretty even distribution of all five, which was cool. Of course I kept mine on green, but every once in a while I would get excited and accidentally flip it to yellow. Which is fine, because Nino is a timeless classic, but once I noticed I would have to cycle through to get it back on green again.

The lights got an update this year, meaning lights from previous concerts would no longer work. I was a little disappointed in that because I wanted to tear one down and build some cool accessory out of it. They basically contain radios that receive a wireless version of the DMX protocol, so at times they would be "taken over" and used as an extension of the stage lighting. I noticed they did a lot more with the light effects, such as more fade effects and more granular control of light patterns. It was pretty impressive, although pretty much every song took control of the lights. Only on parts where the members were running around waving to fans did we get control back, and that's when it matters the most: if your favourite notices you, you want them to see you showing their colour!

At the very beginning Sakurai-san took the moving platform all the way to the back and greeted all the fans on the top level. Man, Sakurai is such a bro. He's the one who makes sure everyone feels included. The ones on the top level got the "unlucky" draw for seating, but they're the first ones to meet Sakurai-san. So nice.

For songs... UB was a beautiful Aiba x Nino performance where they would pose each other in rapid succession. And they were on the centre stage so I was close enough to see them make straining faces in the fast parts as if they were trying to keep up with each other and not mess up on the first day. I thought it was impressive to see them keep up the speed and not trip each other.

バズりNIGHT opened with a skit where Aiba, Ohno, and Sakurai were in a chatroom trying to decide whether to stay in Akihabara or venture into Shibuya in search of the LEGENDARY TRIO. And then they came out on stage in super nerd costumes, complete with thick glasses and backpacks. They looked just like the Akihabara nerds in Densha Otoko. And there was a part in the middle where they went inside a giant box, and it collapsed to reveal the LEGENDARY TRIO: Aiba, Ohno, and Sakurai as ganguro girls. They had the crazy wigs and rainbow furry leggings and it was amazing. After that song they all went backstage to get changed and MJ was poking fun at Ohno the whole time. Ohno did look pretty embarrassed in his costume.

Hikari was a perplexing one for me because it was a gospel-style song. And that's not unexpected because they do experiment with all kinds of different musical styles. But Japan has this thing where they use religious symbols for the aesthetic and not for any significant religious meaning. So when they had stained glass patterns for graphics and choir robes, I was confused about whether it was supposed to be a religious song or not. Either way, it's very catchy!

Kanpai Song had great visuals and stood out as another unique style: a drinking song. They also put it at the end and timed it so the ending "Bye bye, ja ne" went with their leaving the stage.

There was this one point in the concert where Aiba was coming down the runways and waving at fans. And he did indeed get 10 feet from me and all I can say is ABL was RIGHT all along. Muyo yelled "Aiba!" loud enough for him to hear and turn to look at our section. As soon as he left, several rows of fans turned around and made excited faces at Muyo. He sure made a lot of people happy that day.

Gaijin Smash.

Ohno also came to our section to wave at fans and read their signs. I noticed a lot of them had signs with things like "point a finger" or "make a peace sign" so to be unique I shot him a thumbs up. And when he left, he shot a thumbs up at our section. I like to think he was returning mine, who knows?

And finally... Sakurai-san stopped the moving platform next to our section to wave down at us. And then he did something completely unexpected: he put on a huge, proud grin, and took a bow - a deep stage bow with the spinny hand motion. The heck made him do that?! I would bet it was the Sakurai fan dressed in all red, with dyed red hair, and red LED sign that said 嵐のファンでよかった. That would make him proud for sure.

So that was 3 close encounters... and to be honest, that was 3 more than I expected. Not bad for my first concert. I don't know if I will ever have one like this again.

...Or will I?!
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Old 01-20-2018, 05:41 AM   #2
AshsBabyLapras
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It is, I think, the best post I've ever read on these forums. u.u Thank you for writing this up for us, Morgie! It's great to have a third person perspective on the concert to compare with my own memories.

Concert Master J also mentioned in one of his blog entries that they used only one transmitter for the fanlights when they started doing the fancy lighting effects, but for this tour, they're up to using eight of them now! A little technical tidbit that I thought might interest you~

I don't know what those boys are going to do this year, but I can only hope that I might get to see them when they do it.
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